Monthly Archives: June 2011

Alive! But wilted!

By | Animals, My Garden | No Comments

Five days away from home with weather skirting the hundreds, and I wasn’t surprised to return and find a great deal of wilting going on in the garden. The big established beds are completely fine, and would likely keep on keepin’ on for a couple more weeks without any supplemental watering, but the plants from this spring, which haven’t established yet, are suffering badly. Most of my natives will generally take a heckuva lot of abuse on the drought front, but they do need to get their roots well into the ground, so as soon as we pulled into the driveway and counted the animals, I was in the backyard trying to save the abused elderberry and plumleaf azalea.

Clearly the answer is more mulch. More mulch!

Other than the crisis with some of the more tender shrubs, things are going well. Bees and bee flies, hummingbirds and hummingbird hawkmoths, hordes of flower beetles—they’re all swirling over the bee balm and the wild quinine, which are surprisingly long lasting, and the narrow-leaf mountain mint finally bloomed, which is one of the best nectar plants, hands down, and is covered in a swarm of delighted pollinators.

The spicebush swallowtail eggs have hatched into a number of tiny “instar larvae” (the stage before they become actual caterpillars) and now I’m fretting that I won’t have enough spicebush for them. It’s one potted plant on the deck! It’s an okay size, but how many caterpillars can it support? Will I be frantically transporting swallowtail caterpillars to the stand of sassafras behind the general store? (It could happen. You know it could happen.)

I am also happy to report that my garden is apparently now under the ownership of a very grumpy little box turtle, who has commandeered my wheelbarrow as a sun-shade. Given the decline in box turtle populations, I am very glad to have him—apparently they have very small territories, so my garden ought to be hosting a half dozen turtles, in a perfect world, to provide sufficient population density for them to find each other and make more box turtles. But you have to start somewhere, and one grumpy turtle under the wheelbarrow is as good a place as any.

After five days on the road, and three days the weekend before that, “alive but wilted” applies to me as well. I am very tired. I was going to knuckle down and get to work today, but I’m so beat that I may just go to the coffee shop with a book for awhile and vegetate in a sandwich.


June, June, June!

By | Animals, My Garden, plants | One Comment

The garden is glorious, so of course I am going out of town for a week at the height of its glory. On the one hand, I am sorry to miss it, on the other hand, I can pretend that was the one week when it all came together and looked totally magnificent, and I just happened to come back when the wild quinine has fallen down on the verbena and the salvia needs deadheading.

Ah, annuals...

The steps off the back deck are being engulfed by basil and nasturtiums. I have finally succeeded in growing nasturtiums from seed this year, in a couple of places. (In other places, they are a spindly spray of sad little pallid leaves, but by god, some of ’em are the sea of foaming variegated leaves and glorious flowers that they OUGHT to be.)

The bee balm redeemed itself this year, and has reminded me why I planted it.

Most of the flowers are just on the cusp of opening, so of course I’ll probably miss the one glorious week that they were all open at once. Damn these June cons…! But the hummingbird is happy with what we’ve got.

I luuuuuv you, flower...

The shrubby St. John’s wort bloomed really FAST this year–instead of one flower a day for a month, it was like ten flowers a day for two weeks. But it made the bugs happy while it lasted.

Meanwhile, the Giant Joe Pye Weed has lived up to its name–two ten foot stalks and one that’s got to be pushing fourteen feet tall. I have had to tie multiple tomato stakes together to keep it anything like upright, as it wilts madly and photo-tropes aggressively. It is an ungainly, ridiculous, completely unaesthetic addition to the bed. Needless to say, I love it madly.

Having the pond in the backyard is marvelous. I just watched an enormous black beetle swim from the horsetail to the gravel slope. It seemed to be quite a good swimmer for a beetle, and it obvious knew where it was going—made straight for the beach, no flailing or swimming in circles.

Except there was a frog in the way.

Frog was about half again the size of the beetle—small frog, large beetle, obviously. The frog freaked out and lunged at the beetle, biting at it. The beetle was knocked back, but continued on, undaunted. The frog attacked it again. (I don’t think it was trying to eat it—it’d be like me trying to eat a German shepherd in one gulp.) The beetle did not seem particularly injured by this assault, but clearly it was pissed, because the frog’s next assault met a savage pincer attack that knocked the frog back. The frog leapt into the water and went to sulk in the horsetails, while the beetle finally reached the shore, climbed out, and trundled off into the woods.

Kevin says he wants me to dig a pond visible for HIS window now, because it’s so damn cool out that. I can’t blame him, but that’s a heckuva lot of digging…


Slice of Life: Mulch Rationalization Division

By | Animals, My Garden | 4 Comments

I plodded upstairs this morning to where Kevin was taking a shower and said gloomily “So it finally happened.”

KEVIN:  Oh dear…

URSULA: I need more mulch.

KEVIN: …how much are we getting delivered?

URSULA: No! Just five or six bags. Maybe eight. Not a delivery. No.

KEVIN: Uh-huh.

URSULA:  Really.

KEVIN: And how many cubic yards will you need delivered NEXT year?

URSULA:  Seven was plenty! I had stuff left over! Just…err…now I need eight. To cover the beds I had to make with the leftover mulch from the seven.

KEVIN:  AND the bed that didn’t need mulching this year?

URSULA: …nine. Not more than nine.

KEVIN: Uh-huh.

URSULA: And if you’re wondering why I didn’t use the mulch on the side of the house, I tried.

KEVIN:  Started to cook?

URSULA:  Errr…well, sort of, but no. I started to use it, and now there’s a very traumatized garter snake.

KEVIN: *leans against shower wall, laughing*

URSULA: I didn’t mean to scare him! He’s very pretty! He has gray racing stripes! Only he was in the mulch, and you know…

KEVIN: Did you fling him?



URSULA: …maybe a little. A small fling. Barely a flinglet, really…anyway he’s playing dead right now, and I felt terrible, and now we have to go get more mulch because I accidentally made a snake sad.

There is a highly specific silence that occurs as a man in the shower realizes that he is going to spend part of the day hauling bags of mulch because his girlfriend is insane. Part of the reason that I love Kevin is because he will accept this reason as completely valid. One cannot have sad snakes. No.